Once in a while, a TV commercial stays with me. More often than not, I’m sorry to admit, it’s because the commercial gets on my nerves.
When I tell you which commercial is annoying me the most these days, you might be surprised! I am a big fan of poetry, and one of my favorite American poets is Walt Whitman. So, you might expect that I would LOVE the Volvo S90 commercial that features an excerpt from Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road.” Quite the contrary! The first time I saw the commercial, it irked me—and I couldn’t figure out why. However, after seeing it multiple times in an hour of TV-watching, I soon realized the problem: the very first word of the commercial!
I do have a penchant for words that have a storied history but are not in frequent use in English these days, and the commercial’s first word, “afoot,” is one such word. Volvo begins advertising its luxury sedan with the same words that begin Whitman’s poem: “Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road.” A lovely sentiment! Lovely, though, for a person who is walking—not so desirable for one who expects to be driving a luxury sedan. “Afoot,” of course, means “on foot.” If one is driving the Volvo S90 while simultaneously afoot, perhaps the car pictured in the commercial should look more like this:
I somehow doubt that this is the image that Volvo intended to conjure up in the minds of the ad’s audience!
Unity of message in word and image is pretty important, isn’t it?
If you know someone who works at Volvo Car Corporation, feel free to pass along my card. I’ll be happy to review their future advertising campaigns before they launch!